Pakistan’s ex-Prime Minister Imran Khan was shot in the leg at a rally Thursday, according to an official from his party, which said the incident was an assassination attempt.
A bullet hit Khan after a gunman opened fire, said Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) senior leader Asad Umar, who later added: “Yes, he has been shot, there are pellets lodged in his leg, his bone has been chipped, he has also been shot in his thigh.”
The former Pakistan cricket captain was taken from the rally site just outside the town of Gujranwala to receive treatment in Lahore, around a two-and-a-half-hour drive away. He is currently out of danger and in a stable condition, Umar added.
Earlier, Senator Fawad Chaudhry, a senior PTI politician and Khan’s former information minister, said Khan was undergoing surgery and six others were injured and still being treated.
A man suspected of firing shots at the rally was detained on Thursday, said police, which added that the male suspect was arrested with a 9mm pistol and two empty magazines.
“We want to know who is behind the incident, which people trained the accused, what is the thinking under which this boy was prepared, how much money he got, where did he get it from,” tweeted Pakistan’s Punjab Chief Minister, Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi.
At least one person was killed in the incident, according to Faisal Javed, a senior PTI politician and close Khan ally who received a wound to the head in the attack. The victim’s name has not been released.
In a video statement Javed, who can be seen sitting up while receiving treatment, said: “Please pray for us, for Imran Khan, pray for our fellow workers who are severely injured and pray for our party member who has died and is martyred.”
Khan was on the seventh day of a nationwide rally tour calling for elections to be brought forward from August next year.
Protests broke out across Pakistan in support of Khan, including in the capital Islamabad as well as in Peshawar, where approximately 800 protesters gathered, blocking roads for around two hours while holding party flags and chanting slogans against the army and the federal government.
Several PTI politicians addressed the crowd, including provincial assembly member Fazal Elahi, who said the attack was part of a conspiracy against PTI leadership.
“Today we held a peaceful protest which would continue in the future as well,” Elahi said.
Khan alleges that Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah and a senior intelligence official, Maj. Gen. Faisal Naseer, were behind Thursday’s attack.
Khan made the accusations in a statement shared by PTI senior leader Umar, who said he recently spoke to Khan.
“I was getting information that this was going to happen from beforehand,” Khan said, according to Umar. “These men need to be removed from their posts, if they are not removed then there will be protests.”
Sharif, who came to power after Khan lost a parliamentary vote of no confidence in April, condemned Thursday’s attack on his political rival on Twitter.
“I condemn the incident of firing on PTI Chairman Imran Khan in the strongest words,” Sharif wrote, adding that he has asked for an “immediate report on the incident” and will pray for the recovery of those injured.
“Violence should have no place in our country’s politics,” Sharif wrote.
On October 21, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) recommended that Khan be disqualified from holding political office for five years, a move likely to further inflame political tensions in the country.
While reading out the recommendation, ECP chief Sikandar Sultan Raja stated that Khan was disqualified for being involved in “corrupt practices.”
The commission said its decision was based on the grounds that Khan had “made false statements” regarding the declaration of the sale of gifts sent to him by the leaders of Saudi Arabia and Dubai while in office – an offense that is illegal under the country’s constitution.
Khan was unseated in a vote of no-confidence following claims of bad governance and economic mismanagement.
Since then he has repeatedly claimed, without providing any evidence, that the United States had orchestrated his ouster. Khan’s allegations have become a staple at rallies he has held across Pakistan in a bid to return to power.
His claims have struck a chord with a young population in a country where anti-American sentiment runs high, and anti-establishment feelings are being fueled by a rising cost of living crisis.
This is not the first time that Pakistani politicians have been attacked.
Former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was assassinated on December 27, 2007, and then Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani survived an assassination attempt in 2008.
On Thursday, the US condemned the attack on the former prime minister. “The United States strongly condemns the attack on Imran Khan and his supporters and hopes for the swift recovery of all who were injured. Violence has no place in politics,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters aboard Air Force One en route to New Mexico.
“We call on all parties to remain peaceful and refrain from violence.”
Correction: A previous version of this story contained an old photo of Imran Khan erroneously distributed by the Associated Press. It has been removed.